Has a small footprint, and the temperature control and digital timer mean you can preset an oil temp and walk away.
The control pad is awkwardly situated, and cleaning is a pain.
Messy, a little scary, and not worth the buy.
Finding a home fryer that’s efficient, won’t stink up the house, and is easy to clean and store is the Holy Grail of deep-fryers. Hamilton Beach's 12 Cup Oil Capacity Deep Fryer is compact and affordable—a machine for the cook who only fries occasionally. It’s a narrow unit that's light to pick up and easy to put away, but how does it perform? We filled it with oil and took it for a spin.
The base of the Hamilton Beach fryer is stainless steel, with a heating unit that slides onto an attachment on the back of the base. The whole unit is pretty compact: just over 10 inches wide, 11 1/2 inches tall, and just under 17 1/2 inches deep. There’s a digital timer and an adjustable temperature gauge. The 12-cup oil well is black. There’s a wire immersion basket with a handle, an LCD readout, and a light to tell you when the oil has reached fry temp.
We tested three deep-fry items: Buffalo chicken wings, good-quality frozen mozzarella sticks, and cake-style donuts and donut holes.
Results: The temperature control, digital timer, and light to tell you when the oil is at the right temp are nice. You can set the fryer and walk away, and not have to keep fiddling with the heat to keep the oil at a constant temperature. A chime alerts you when the oil has reached your desired temp.
The basket is nice for containing smaller items like wings and donut holes. We tried to fry the holes without the basket and they escaped under the heating element—we had to fish them out with a skewer! Because the unit is narrow, trying to flip more than four 3-inch donuts at a time was kind of scary: It seemed like all the turbulence was going to make the oil overflow, though it never actually did. The control pad is located at the back of the unit, so you have to reach over hot bubbling oil to make adjustments—definitely a recipe for spattered forearms.
The black oil pan made it hard to see if there were any blackened fried bits at the bottom when we scooped between batches (if you don't get most of them out, they'll leave a burnt taste). And cleaning this fryer is a pain, since there are lots of parts and doodads that can't be immersed in water. Although this fryer comes with a lid, we never used it because we feared that condensation would form and drip into the hot oil. And in addition to cooling and disposing of the oil and cleaning the oil pan, you have to clean the heating element and the exterior stainless housing. To be fair, keeping the lid down might have kept the exterior from getting so greasy, but still—this adds up to being a real chore.
In the end, for occasional frying you're better off with oil in a Dutch oven, regulated with the help of a candy/deep-frying thermometer. You’ll get better results and spend less time cleaning.
Photos by Chris Rochelle